One-on-One with D.J. Carton – Video Interview & Transcript
ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – D.J. Carton has stood out at every event in which he’s participated this spring and summer. This weekend’s Justin Sharp Memorial Shootout was no different.
The Bettendorf point guard led the Bulldogs to the championship game against an impressive group of schools. They knocked off Iowa City West and fellow Top 50 national recruit Patrick McCaffery in the semifinals.
Following Saturday’s quarterfinal victory against host Rock Island, I caught up with Carton, who was kind enough to give me extensive time in this exclusive interview. He talked about his friendship with Patrick McCaffery, an Iowa commitment, and how he feels about the Hawkeyes, his recruiting process overall, including a timeline, his goals for the coming season and much more.
You can watch the entire video interview here or read the transcript below it:
Q. You guys went ahead 9-0 (against Rock Island) and then they made a move on you. What pulled you guys ahead again?
D.J. Carton: I feel like our team is really close this year and I feel like we’ve got a more experienced team. Last year, we were super young. We knew that we had to lock down the offensive boards. They got a lot of offensive boards early on. We really buckled down in that area of the game and we were more efficient on the offensive end also, getting transition buckets and things like that. We buckled down. We called timeout and coach got on us a little bit and that’s what we needed. From there, we jumped on them.
Q. Is it nice to be able to play with your high school team amidst spring and summer AAU and other camps?
DJC: Most definitely. I love playing with these guys and it’s good to be back home practicing with these guys. I haven’t been able to practice with them very much. Just being with these guys is a great opportunity to help us get better and grow and I feel like they’ve improved in many areas since I’ve been gone. I’m just glad to be back in the court with them. Winning a state championship is the most important thing to me right now. So, it’s good to be on the court with these guys and hopefully keep working to achieve that.
Q. Your outside shot was off early today and then you hit the two big threes late to help your team pull away. Do you like the pressure shots?
DJC: I like making the big-time plays. I’ve been working on my shot a lot this offseason. I feel like it’s come a long way. I’m going to keep shooting it confidently no matter how it goes. But, yeah, I feel like in big-time moments it’s my time and I need to take over and kind of do my thing and put my team in a position to win.
Q. How do you feel physically? It looked like you grabbed your elbow out there and your knee seemed to be bugging you. You’ve been playing a lot of basketball. Is it wearing you down?
DJC: Yeah it is. I’ve had a knee issue for like the past two months. I really didn’t get it figured out with all the camps and stuff. I didn’t want to miss the camps. Yeah I have a little knee issue but this is important to me. I want to help my team win this for the first time for Bettendorf. Sometimes you just have to power through things like that. Once this is over, I’ll get it evaluated and see what’s going on.
Q. What’s this rise been like for you and how do you keep it in perspective?
DJC: It’s different because growing up I wasn’t popular. I didn’t have all these people looking up to me. It’s changed in the matter of a year. Even in the last couple months it’s gotten different. It’s definitely changed me. It’s made me more mature. I feel like it’s helped me become a better man. It’s helped me make better decisions. I kind of sacrifice hanging out with my friends. I’m trying to achieve my goal of making it to the NBA. It’s kind of a job but I love my job. So I’m going to keep on doing it and keep on striving.
Q. How do you not pay attention to what’s going on around you, social media wise? When you get to this level, you’re talked about a lot and people have opinions. Do you try to avoid that stuff?
DJC: Early on I used to look at stuff like that, look at comments. Nowadays, I’ve got confidence in myself and what’s I’m capable of doing. I know what I’m strong at and what I need to work on. So, I don’t feel like I need critics to tell me what I need to work on. But I’m always open to learning so sometimes I’ll read them because some people have good minds out there for basketball. So sometimes I’ll read them and it will say he needs work on his mid-range and I’ll work on that. Stuff out of basketball, I just try to stay away from that and try to get my mind off of it.
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Q. Where do you put recruiting during this time? You’re trying to get better as a team and improve your game. Where does recruiting fit in?
DJC: I feel like it fits right in with it. I feel like it’s very important for me now. It’s getting a little more serious. I’ve got some visits upcoming. It’s important to continue building the relationship with the coaches. It’s definitely right up there with AAU ball, summer ball, everything because this is my future and this is a big step in my life.
Q. I think outsiders think they know where you’re going but it seems like you’re still trying to figure out which place is best for you. Is that the case?
DJC: I’ve seen articles before saying that I already know where I want to go. My mom showed me one about me not going to the Hawkeyes. I have them on my Top 6 list for a reason. If I knew where I wanted to go, I’d commit already or I’d have a Top 2 or Top 3. All six of these teams, they interest me. I’m just trying to find ways to have each one separate itself and find which one best fits me and my family.
Q. It seems like you like the coaches, the programs and the schools at all of them. Are you know trying to find something that separates one from the group?
DJC: Yeah, and what’s going to separate them is how comfortable I am around the players and coaches and how when I get there on my visit how comfortable I feel in that environment. Like my mom was saying, when I get the feeling when I’m there it will be a gut feeling. So, I’m just trying to go through that process and waiting for that gut feeling and find where I can be myself.
Q. What do you want to study in college and how big are academics in this process for you?
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DJC: Academics are a huge thing. That’s No. 1. I’m going to college to get my degree. I still want to go to the NBA, whether that’s after four years or whatever the journey is for me. I want to study journalism and communications. I want to be a broadcaster, analyst for sports, basketball. I want to stay around the game of basketball and be able to give my take on things and be able to watch young players.
Q. Have you and Patrick (McCaffery) become closer friends at these events you’ve been attending together?
DJC: Most definitely. Me and Pat have become much closer friends I’ve been with him for the whole month, basically. I feel like our relationship has evolved. I used to be cool with him but I didn’t really talk with him because I was never really around him when he played with the Barnstormers. Now, going to these camps, I didn’t really know many people so me and him were hanging and we met a lot of new friends throughout this whole summer. It’s been good to get to know him and have him as one of my good friends.
Q. Now he’s trying to recruit you to his school. He doesn’t seem like the type that’s going to pressure you. How is that dynamic?
DJC: Early on when I received an offer from Iowa (last spring) and we weren’t as good of friends, he would pressure me, make jokes about it and tell me to go to Iowa all the time. Now that we’ve become close, he knows I’m going to make my decision based off what best fits me. He definitely respects it but yet he always keeps in my ear and makes sure that I don’t forget about the Hawks.
Q. How do you feel about your relationship with the Iowa coaches?
DJC: I talk to coach (Andrew) Francis every day. I talk to coach (Fran) McCaffery at least once a week. I talk to them a lot. I feel like they’re definitely making me a priority and I feel like they really feel like I’m the missing piece for their recruiting. So, they definitely talk to me a lot and I have a really good relationship with them and the players, too. I know the players a lot. I’ll talk to them often. Overall, I have a really good relationship with Iowa.
Q. Does your grandfather (who played at Iowa) pressure you at all?
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DJC: No. He used to watch Iowa sports but he’s not a huge Iowa fan. He went there. I’ve also seen stuff like that my grandfather went to the Hawks he has to have come kind of connection there. It’s kind of weird because he’ll watch Iowa football and basketball but he’s never once said something about me wanting to go to Iowa, pressuring me, asking me if I was interested in Iowa. He’s just kind of let me do my thing and kind of got in with the process. He’s definitely a role model to me and someone I look up to and someone who has been a big part of this journey.
Q. You seem pretty independent and confident. Do you feel any pressure from classmates or people in the community to go to the in-state school?
DJC: I get it a lot just from at my school. A lot of my school is going to Iowa so they want me to go to Iowa. I just moved to Iowa freshman year and I haven’t been a Hawkeye fan my whole life. I like the Hawks, obviously, but at the end of the day all my friends definitely respect my decision and they want the best for my future. They’re Hawk fans but they give me some space to make my own decision.
Q. Is there are part of your mind thinking that you could be that missing piece for Iowa?
DJC: Yeah, most definitely and that’s why I feel that’s a little special. They haven’t been so successful lately but they’re getting a lot of good recruits coming in. They’re kind of switching things around and turning things around and starting down a good path. I definitely think that they’re in need of a point guard who can get others involved and kind of bring a little excitement back to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Q. You have six schools and can take five officials. Will you take one to Iowa or visit unofficially with it being close?
DJC: I haven’t talked to them about officials, unofficial visits. So, I will visit them in the future but I don’t know if it will be official or unofficial.
Q. What schools are you hearing from that haven’t offered but you feel like they like you?
DJC: I’ve heard from Wichita State. But from sources of mine, some coaches that I’ve had, have said that some blue blood programs will be in during July to evaluate me. So, I haven’t heard from them specifically but I feel like they’ll be there watching.
Q. Is that a goal for you to land an offer from a blue blood?
DJC: It’s definitely not a goal but it’s definitely eye-catching. Those programs, they all win and they have good academics and they do a good job of getting kids to achieve their dreams. So, it’s definitely something that I’d look into but I’m going to treat it as any other school. I’m still going to go through the process.
Q. What are you looking at for a decision timeline?
DJC: The goal is to get it done before high school season just so I can focus on that and trying help my team win. With recruiting going on during high school basketball it gets a little tough and stressful at times. So, I want to keep my mind right and put all my focus into high school.